best leg workouts

Best Leg Workouts for Strength & Muscle Growth

best leg workouts

Leg day. Most of us are really not looking forward to this day. Its no wonder many gym enthusiasts have developed a love-hate relationship with leg exercises. No one is too eager for the delayed onset muscle soreness that will follow.

You should know though that you won’t be able to have a complete weight training if you don’t allocate at least a day of your workout to leg-focused exercises. We compiled 7 of the best leg workouts that focus on achieving strength and muscle growth.

1. Squat

Squat
Screenshot from Calisthenicmovement

This lower body exercise is perfect for all fitness levels. Squat exercise mainly targets the glutes and the thighs (hamstrings and quadriceps). In addition, you are also engaging your calves, back muscles, ankle mobility, and core strength and stability when doing this exercise.

Steps:

  • Stand straight with both of your feet at hip-width apart. Put your hands on your hips.
  • Tighten your abs like someone is about to hit you.
  • While keeping your upper body straight, slowly bend both of your knees. Imagine that you have an invisible chair behind you. Lower yourself as far as you can.

There are many versions of the squat. There’s the weight version with an added barbell or there’s also the bodyweight version.

Despite being one of the most common exercises, many of us are still doing the “bad squats”. Always check your form and be mindful of your upper body. Perfecting squats may take a lot of practice but you will reap many benefits once you master it.

2. Snatch And Power Clean

Screenshot from Oleksiy TOROKHTIY
Snatch
Screenshot from Oleksiy TOROKHTIY

Snatches and power clean are difficult movements that require time and dedication to master. Once you have mastered this moves, you’ll be able to improve your squat strength or jumping power.

You would need an intensive amount of knowledge on techniques to master these movements. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner though. There are plenty of exercises that you can do to prepare you for these complex movements.

How to master the snatch:

  • With both of your feet in line with your hips, grab the bar wide while making sure that your body is tight.
  • Load your hamstrings while back should be kept flat.
  • Lift the bar off the ground until it moved smoothly past your knees.
  • Aggressively and quickly pull and launch the bar from the top of your knees to your hip pocket.
  • Pull the bar up to your sternum or midchest using high elbows.
  • Launch the bar overhead and drop quickly underneath the bar.
  • Catch the bar from below.
  • Stand up straight to complete the power snatch movement.

Learn how to do the power clean correctly here.

3. Deadlift

Deadlift
Screenshot from Bodybuilding.com

Deadlift is one of the most popular exercises around. Whether you want to gain strength, increase your athleticism, burn fat or simply build muscle, this movement is versatile.

Deadlift is a total exercise that requires a full body movement. You will develop pure strength because it uses a lot of muscle mass. It targets not just your hamstrings but also your upper back, glutes, and core.

Steps:

  • Start in a standing position, with both feet flat under the barbell.
  • Slowly squat down and lift the barbell with your hands roughly at shoulder-width apart.
  • Look straight ahead, pull your shoulders back and keep your chest up.
  • Lift the barbell and take the weight back onto your legs. Take a little pause when it reaches your thigh. Return under control to the starting position.

4. Dumbbell Lunge

Dumbbell Lunge
Screenshot from ScottHermanFitness

This strength exercise is perfect if you’re just starting on workout training. It targets your quadriceps to help you achieve strong and toned legs.

Steps:

  • Start in a standing position, with both of your torso upright. Keep both of your hands in your sides, each holding a dumbbell.
  • Step your right leg forward, keeping around 2 feet or so apart from the other leg. While the torso is kept upright, slowly lower your upper body down. Inhale as you go down.
  • Push up using mostly the heel of your foot. Slowly go back to the original position while you exhale.
  • Repeat on the left leg.
  • Do as many repetitions as required.

There are many variations on this exercise. You can either do it with dumbbells or a barbell on your back.

5. Leg Press

Leg Press
Screenshot from MiamiMuscleUSA

Leg press targets gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and quadriceps. This is a popular exercise that works to build key muscles in your legs. You would need a Leg press machine to perform this exercise.

Steps:

  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and use your heels and forefoot to push the platform away. Keep your heels flat on the footplate.
  • As you exhale, extend your legs and keep your back and head flat against the seating pad. Use slow control while doing your extension movements.
  • Take a quick pause at the top of the movement.
  • Gradually bend your knees to return the footplate to the original position. Inhale as you do this movement. Your back and feet should be kept flat throughout.

6. Leg Extensions

Leg Extensions

The leg extension is perfect for beginner level. While this exercise mainly targets your quadriceps muscles, it also helps build muscle definition and body strength. You would need a Leg extension machine to perform this workout.

Steps:

  • Set up the leg extension machine. Your knees should be at 90 degrees while the pad should be at the top of your lower legs at the ankles. Choose a weight that can enable you to do 10 to 12 repetitions with a moderate load.
  • Put your hands on the hand bars.
  • Exhale and lift the weight until both of your legs are almost straight. Keep your back from arching and it should be against the backrest.
  • Slightly lower the weight back to the original position as you exhale.
  • Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

7. Barbell Hip Thrust

hip thrust

Barbell Hip Thrust strengthens and builds your glutes. This exercise activates more muscle fibers in the glutes compared to squats and deadlifts.

Steps:

  • Sit on a floor and bring the loaded barbell into your lap. For greater comfort, you can use a squat sponge or a bar pad.
  • Slowly bend your knees at 90 degrees while your feet are planted on the floor. Turn your toes out about 30 degrees.
  • With your upper back resting on a bench, slowly brace your abs and raise your hips by driving your heels into the floor. Do this movement until they are in line with your torso.

You will now look forward to your leg day with these effective leg exercises. Start mastering one or two (or maybe all) if you want to walk around with amazingly strong and well-built legs.

REFERENCES:

Carrick, E. (2017). 6 Best Lower Body Exercises for Perfectly Sculpted Legs. Retrieved from https://www.cheatsheet.com/health-fitness/the-best-foods-for-maintaining-good-gut-health.html/

Harris-Fry, N. (2019). Leg exercises. Retrieved from https://www.coachmag.co.uk/fitness/leg-exercises

Hyde, P. (2017). 10 Best Muscle-Building Leg Exercises. Retrieved from https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/10-best-muscle-building-leg-exercises.html

Smith, B. (n.d.). The 10 Best Legs Exercises for Beginners. Retrieved from https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/10-best-legs-exercises-beginners/

The 30 Best Leg Exercises of All Time. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/30-best-legs-exercises-all-time/